WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: It’s good to see all of you here this morning! Also, we want to welcome our radio audience! We are in our series on the life of Christ from all four gospels and this morning we are in Matthew 2 for our message titled: “WHEN GOD SEEMS HELPLESS.” Most of us would not admit it but at some time in our life that thought has gone through our minds – “Is God helpless?” We may never say it out loud but we have wondered in our heart – “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He stop the evil in this world, protect the innocent, the weak, and the children? Why doesn’t He even take care of His own?
Matthew 2 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Overall Background: So far everything we have looked at in the birth of Jesus has been wonderful, joyful, and according to divine plan but now we come to a rather dark chapter in the Christmas narrative. The magi had been instructed by King Herod to inform him when they had found the baby – the King of the Jews. But that night they had a dream that they should not go back to Herod and they went home another way. When King Herod got the news that the Magi had deceived him, he was furious and Matthew 2:16 says “…he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” In some Christian traditions, this is referred to as the “Massacre of the Innocents.” Depending on which tradition you come from, either December 27 or 28 or 29 is considered “Holy Innocents Day.”
Can you imagine what that massacre was like when Herod’s soldiers descended upon the little town of Bethlehem and the surrounding area and began brutally killing little boys? Matthew 2 tells us in verse 17 “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.’” You can almost hear the cries and the screams and the wails of the mothers and I’m sure the fathers too for their innocent children. I can’t help but remember Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were brutally killed just two years ago. We all remember the shock and the pain we felt.
Back to Matthew 2:13, God knew what Herod was about to do and what was His response? 13 Now when they (magi) had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Have you ever stopped to examine this passage carefully? There are many problems here –
- Is God telling his son to flee from a mere mortal?
- Is God too powerless to deal with King Herod? Can He not just kill him?
- If not kill him, why not change his heart to receive Jesus as his Savior?
- Forget about baby Jesus for a moment – how about the innocent children? Why didn’t God send His angels to protect the innocent children from the soldiers?
- If not, why didn’t He just transform the soldiers’ hearts? Then no one had to die.
Have you ever thought of these questions? You may say – “not really.” Actually, you have. The question underlying all those questions is –
- Where is God when bad things happen?
- Where is God when evil people hurt the innocent, the weak, and the children?
- Where is God when His own people suffer?
- Where is God when it appears that His own grand plan is in jeopardy?
Bottom line: How can I trust a God who is Himself on the run?
When you raise questions like these, there are several different responses:
- Some people are afraid of these questions because they feel that it may weaken their faith. “Just don’t question.”
- Some people admit that they have these questions but they are trying to have faith. “I’m trying hard to have faith.”
- Some people have already answered these questions with the conclusion that either God is not powerful or not good (doesn’t care) or doesn’t exist (Atheist).
Sadly, some of those people are here this morning. This morning we do not have the time to deal with every question on this topic but at least answer the ones that come from this passage. There is a reason why God allowed this tragedy to happen:
1. REMIND US OF THE REALITY OF SIN AND EVIL.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
Background: Herod questioned the Sanhedrin if what the Magi were saying was the truth. The Sanhedrin – the central Jewish authority – did not get along with Herod. But, in this situation they told him the truth. They quoted from two different Old Testament passages – 2 Samuel 5:2 and Micah 5:2. Listen to verse 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” Meaning: Both the Jewish leaders and King Herod knew the truth about Jesus. There was no confusion, doubt, or surprise. Nonetheless, they rejected it enough to try to kill it. Why? Because of sin and evil.
We love everything about Christmas – Buying gifts, decorating the tree, Santa Claus, and singing Christmas carols like “Joy to the World,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.” It’s wonderful but there’s another side we cannot forget. This side is evil and sinful and it did everything it could to sabotage, quench, and destroy the truth of God.
Christmas is not only a reminder of joy and peace and goodwill to all but it is also a reminder that there is real sin and evil in this world. Tragedies like the Newtown shooting, and September 11, and the killing of the innocent people in the Middle East as we speak reminds us that there is real evil and sin in this world. Let me go a step further – that same sin and evil that is in the convicts in prison and those out in the streets and those terrorists and those despots throughout history is also in you and is also in me. It does everything possible to quench and destroy the truth of God.
Tragedies in life remind us that Jesus did not come to die because he had nothing better to do. Jesus did not come to die because people are basically good and they just need to be better. Jesus came to die for a real world that has real evil because of real sin.
Application: Do you believe that there is real sin and real evil in this world? Do you believe that Jesus had to come to set us free from the power of sin and death? Do you recognize the sin and evil that is in your own heart?
2. REMIND US OF THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS.
13 “…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word…”
Background: This passage is interesting to say the least. Why is Jesus unaware of Herod’s plot and why doesn’t He just zap him from the manger? Because of the Reality of the Incarnation. Jesus chose to restrict his divine attributes. He chose to hold back his omniscience and omnipotence. As Philippians 2:7 tells us, “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” In order to become just like us He refused to exercise His all knowledge and His all power. He didn’t lose them. He didn’t empty them. He didn’t leave them with the father. He always had them but chose to be like us. Why? Hebrews 2 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings…17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest…18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. He was fully God and yet as fully man He restricted himself but He never lost what He had as God. You may ask – “How does all that work together?” It worked for Him.
Application: The real question is do you know when Jesus went through for you? Do you know how much He had to restrict Himself to be like you? Do you also know that there is no suffering that you have been through or are going through or will go through that Jesus does not completely and totally understand? By becoming helpless He is able to help us.
3. REMIND US OF A DEEPER TRUTH.
14 When he (Joseph) arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Background: This event is known as the flight to Egypt or in some traditions as the second of the “Seven sorrows of Mary.” Matthew explains to us that this episode fulfilled the statement of the prophet Hosea. Egypt represented sin and depravity, not the land but a state. God led His people Israel out of bondage but they repeatedly longed for it and talked about it. They longed for the leeks and garlic and the pots of meat. Compared to them, Jesus came out of Egypt and He never went back (again not the land but the state).
When we are saved, we are in Christ. Because He came out of Egypt, we too have come out of Egypt. We don’t have to live in defeat and captivity. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Now all we have to do is keep our eyes on our Captain Jesus. Hebrews 12 1 “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do you know Jesus as your Savior? How are you handling your suffering?